US to ban TikTok?

Over the past few years, federal and state agencies in the US have moved to ban TikTok from government-owned devices. Last week, a bipartisan group of American lawmakers introduced a bill to ban the app altogether over concerns about sensitive user data being readily accessible to the Chinese government.

The comments I’ve read on numerous websites from people of all persuasions appear to be overwhelmingly in favor of this move, although the reasons are varied. Some cite the same concern as the lawmakers, that China’s government has too much information on Americans. In fairness, many also acknowledged having similar privacy concerns over US-based companies (think Meta/Facebook and Google) and government agencies but argued that this was a much-needed initial step towards eventually rectifying those issues as well.

Others have cited concerns over child development, noting shortened attention spans in the youngest cohorts. Similarly, dangerous “challenges” that have resulted in injuries and death of youth, with one resulting in at least 15 deaths of children under 12, have caused some to frame the app as a threat to public health. This is to say nothing of the link between social media use and negative mental health outcomes.

However, some question the legality of banning an app wholesale, arguing that it is effectively a violation of the US Constitution’s First Amendment protection of free speech insofar as social media, for better or worse, can be construed by some as a “public square” to voice opinions. Others question if it would be futile to ban TikTok as people would just shuffle to other social media which result in the same negative consequences and data harvesting.

I’m curious to hear the thoughts of people on here, both American and abroad, with the following questions in mind:

  1. Do you think such a ban would be effective, or do you even think it would be legal/constitutional (either in the US or if your own country followed suit)?
  2. Do you think another company will step up to make a TikTok clone, and if so, do you think it will be as successful?
  3. Might the period in which TikTok is banned cause introspection across society of whether we have a healthy relationship with technology?

Of course, also feel free to add your own questions/comments!


@whyoungblood I’m really glad you brought up this topic- I recently posted about the differences in the TikTok CHINA app & the one which is distributed in other parts of the world:

It’s also discussed here: Is TikTok made to be more addictive in the U.S. than it is in China? - Deseret News.
Basically, China’s version of TikTok offers a child-friendly version, with educational videos and a time limit , that isn’t offered in the U.S.

Then there is this segment on the new program 60 minutes in the US:

All of it makes me really wonder about how SAFE is this app.


@whyoungblood I think tiktok is useless. Most of my friends are on it, but tbh, I can’t see why- and what the appeal is. I read somewhere that the US government is trying to get it to be sold to a US company, but I don’t know how realistic that is.


You made interesting points here.

TikTok is useless for me, and its absence would be a wholesomer.

However, I firmly believe that knowledge and critical thinking are fundamental to a healthy society/country/world. I am not fond of banning as the easiest way. My experience in my area clearly shows it.

Banning something without a transparent discussion and different points of view is also useless.


Yeah, they’ve been trying to sell it to a US-based company for a year or two now but ByteDance (TikTok’s owner) has been dragging their feet and it seems that Congress is getting tired of waiting. To be clear, there are broader privacy concerns which selling it to a US-based company would still leave unresolved, but it would at least be a start.


As much as it pains me to say because I wish TikTok would just disappear, I agree that a ban may not be the best way to go about this. What is likely to happen is the creation of a US-based clone, so while the issue of China owning troves of user data will be resolved, we’ll still have all the other issues: atrophied attention spans, the glorification and proliferation of dangerous “challenges”, and of course sensitive data still being collected, just not by a foreign adversary.

I think a comprehensive solution to this issue is twofold, one that could be applied not just in the US but around the world. The first is a digital bill of rights, a version of which the EU has already implemented with GDPR, which would require private companies and government alike to respect end users’ decisions on how much data they want collected. The second is amending the American Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (or its international equivalents) to raise the age which social media can be accessed from 13 to 15 or 16, enforceable by requiring government-issued identification (such as a driver’s license, passport, or ID card) to sign up for those services.

One of the reasons I’ve heard parents give their kids smartphones at such young ages is because of peer pressure for them to join sites like TikTok and Snapchat since “that’s where all their friends are”. To be sure, parents need to stop being afraid to tell their kids “no” to smartphones until they’re developmentally ready for them, but I digress. Raising the age to use those apps would nonetheless likely result in less pressure for kids to have devices that access them, helping more children to develop psychologically in a healthy way.


@roberto The US is also instituting a ban of TikTok on government-issues devices

This seems like a trend.


The fact that governments are forbidding government employees to have tiktok on government devices, that’s just common sense. Government devices should not have personal apps on them. They should be used for work purposes, not wasting time on tiktok.
But banning the app outright is a bad idea imho
If you remove it, people will still be able to access the apk & use it.


TikTok has repeatedly stated that it stores US user data in the US and Singapore, and that it has implemented measures to protect user privacy. But, honestly, I don’t buy it.
TikTok collects so much user data, including location information, device information, and browsing and search history. This data is used to personalize the user experience and to serve targeted ads. So they have access to it & are using it. If it could be accessed to personalize the app & ads, then could be accessed by the Chinese government, given the company’s headquarters in China and its ties to the Chinese Communist Party.
I don’t see why it’s so difficult to connect the dots.


@ltdan I wonder how it is with the EU. Is that data stored in China or somewhere else?


DW also ran an interesting segment on this topic:

In this day & age data equals power.
We can split hairs & say that data is simply raw information which requires interpretation, analysis, and contextualization to be useful. POWER comes from the insights gained through analyzing and understanding the data, and then using that understanding to make informed decisions or take action.
But let’s be honest, those who have access to data, usually have the resources to analyze and interpret it effectively.

Just a simple Google search gave me the information that TikTok has about 80 million monthly active users in the United States. 60% are female, 40% are male. 60% are between the ages of 16-24. 26% are between the ages 25-44.
Just imagine how much data ByteDance has access to.


This is what scares me the most. Those 16-44 year olds are tomorrow’s leaders and politicians. The threat of extortion is already high with the prevalence of data harvesting and social media, but add a hostile totalitarian government into the mix and it could have major negative repercussions both for the individual and for any organization/government they are a part of.


@whyoungblood I agree. things you post on the internet stay there FOREVER. And yes, things can come back to haunt you when you least expect it.


The issue of data privacy and national security in relation to TikTok and other Chinese-owned tech companies remains a concern…


Poland is also taking some major steps:

The article is in Polish, but a translator can help :slight_smile:

The main point is:
The Digital Council of Poland recommends removing the TikTok app from the smartphones of public administration employees. This applies to official and private devices, as long as official data and applications (e.g. email) are on them. The Council’s decision is a suggestion, the decision must be taken by the government.


Here’s an interesting take on why TikTok should not be banned:


Many see that U.S. Senate bill as “the Patriot Act on steroids” – an act that has been bad for Americans’ privacy.


@kirkmahoneyphd Based on your post, I actually looked at the Restrict Act & read through it. It turns out this law is not just limited to just TikTok. It gives the government authority over all forms of communication domestic or abroad and grants powers to “enforce any mitigation measure to address any risk” to national security now and in any “potential future transaction”